The Flying Tomatoes of La Tomatina

By Nomadic Matt | Published August 27th, 2009


Around the world, huge festivals attract tens of thousands of people because everyone likes a good party. More importantly, everyone likes a party with a good food fight, which is why everyone descends on Bunol, Spain on the last Wednesday of August. Each year around 30,000 people come to the city to take part in La Tomatina, a large, crazy, and very messy one hour tomato fight that leaves all its participants and the city itself covered in a thick layer of tomato.

La Tomatina originated as a local food fight among friends in 1945. It was enjoyed so much that it was repeated the next year and the year after. The holiday was banned in 1955 but, after the death of Franco in the 1970s, the holiday returned once more. Since the 1990s, the festival has grown each year as more and more people come to participate in the world’s largest food fight and every year the city council happily provides the tomatoes that are thrown at the event.

Starting early in the morning, people wearing clothes never to be worn again crowd trains heading from Valencia to Bunol. They get there and join the other masses heading to the center, stopping for some food and a lot of drinks along the way. Eventually, everyone reaches the city center and simply stops. There’s nowhere else to go. The crowd is simply too thick. During the run up to the 11am kick off, many participants climb the greased pole to get a ham. When the ham is caught, the party starts, though I didn’t see anyone get the ham. They seem to start at 11 regardless. While waiting for that crucial hour, people drink, pour water on each other, and break out into the occasional t-shirt fight.

Then the gun goes off, the fight begins, and the tomatoes pour out of trucks. But only video will give testament to the craziness. So while I was fighting, my friends at Travelyourself took my camera so I could bring you this:

There’s nothing else I can say about the festival that the video doesn’t show better.

The fight lasts for one hour after which the city is ankle deep in a river of tomato juice. The party continues for a few hours in many of the plazas around the city before most crowds head back to Valencia to shower, siesta, and relax.

La Tomatina was certainly the most interesting food fight I’ve been to. It’s quite dirty and if you don’t like a mess or crowds, you wouldn’t like this. I had an amazing, energetic time and that week I was there connected me with some of the most important people in my life. So for those looking to spend a few hours throwing food at each other, dancing in the streets, and drinking sangria at 10am, well, you better be at La Tomatina next year.

For more information on getting there and seeing Spain? Visit my guide to backpacking Europe and my country and city guide to Spain to start planning your trip today.

comments 21 Comments

This is certainly up there on the “to-do before I die” list, nice, looks like great fun! I think I’d turn up with a super soaker loaded with 10 litres of cheap watery tomato ketchup for ammo *evil grin like that guy on doom 1 when he picks up a weapon*

Ha ha ha! Totally f*ckin crazy! And I soooo Looooove it! What a noise, what a mess….*giggles*

If it weren’t so crowded, I hate that kind of crowds, I’d definitely book for next year already….

Franny

That is crazy!!!! I would hate it. :)

Andrew

Ha! That is absolutely insane and awesome!

I prefer to eat my tomatoes, but that is definitely one hell of a scene.

Safe travels,

Andrew
TheBrooklynNomad.com

Jesse F.

That was certainly one crazy day. Tomatoes and sangria for the lot. Thanks for hooking up this vid again! Good luck in your future travels sir.

Drinking sangria at 10am? Must be a Saturday! I kid, of course! Great video.

Oh, I can’t see the picture! I hope it makes the weekly picture so I can see it in my inbox!

NomadicMatt

The great firewall of China has blocked youtube again? Well, I’ll try to find a good photo.

NomadicMatt

La Tomatina was on my bucket list. Now, I can cross it off!

Cindy

Insanity! I love it!

Marking it on the calendar….

NomadicMatt

you better!

Does this match running the bulls at Pamplona for the ultimate Boy’s own experience in Spain. I think I’ll aspire to walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela for my dream trip rather than one big tomato fight.

Looks like a load of messy fun.

Great Post. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I attended Tomatina during my honeymoon (yes, I know it’s not very romantic) in 2005 and it was a blast. Its not something I need to do every year; I had a minor allergic reaction to the tomatoes, but it was worth it. It was a crazy event I will never forget – I definitely recommend it!

Mattverine

Awesomeness!!!

No cravings for salsa though, just some sort of sensitive wipes for the eyes.

Advice for people wishing to attend:-

Take nothing that you value down to the streets where it’s “goin’ down”
Put your money and cigarettes / lighters into waterproof zip lock bags
Flip flops are dangerous
Expect to lose your t-shirt / vest or have it torn off
Prepare yourself to go without a lavatory for up to 4 hours
Have water on standby
some advise wearing goggles, but these will almost certailnly become dislodged or removed during the battle.

These are the things I would have like to have known pre-event, so I’m passing it on now.

Cheers.

kristina

it was an experience. There is definately a chance of dying at this festival. you are crushed by thousands of people. with no escape. Be warned of the danger, if you ever fell at this festival you would be crushed to death and I am hapy to have got out alive. There are many more people than tomatoes.

This is exactly what kept me away from this festival – a fear of being crushed and stampeded on. Even though I absolutely adore Spanish festivities, this one, along with bull runs, is definitely not for the faint of heart.

cele

Can you buy there the tomatoes? Or where do you pick them from?

NomadicMatt

They dump them out of the trucks for you to throw.

Hol

I can’t wait for La Tomatina! I’m going with Stoke Travel and have scored free unlimited beer and sangria by booking with the promo code SHARKWEEK!

NomadicMatt

yeah…which seems to be the ratio in the hostels around spain

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